of Montreal - Paralytic Stalks

An oddly engaging and experimental album.

of Montreal have always been characterised by an aversion to settle, as Kevin Barnes attempts to exorcise his demons through the medium of pop. Sounds have been tossed aside, characters come and gone, themes played out, theatre deployed.

Now after the RnB pop psychedelia of ‘False Priest’ comes ‘Paralytic Stalks’, their eleventh album - billed as the most experimental album they’ve produced. It finds Barnes back on sprawling, narcissistic form. Here he strips away the pretense as he delivers a stream of soliloquies on revenge, self-hatred and relationship breakdowns.

As Barnes reported in a previous interview with DIY ‘Paralytic Stalks’ is a full-frontal emotional performance. “With this record, I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve.” So on ‘Dour Percentage’ we hear about the ‘the way you and I torment each other.’ And on Spiteful Intervention he reveals and revels in the fact that ‘I made the one I love start crying tonight and it felt good.’ While on on ‘Wintered Debts’ he asks ‘What is the purpose of this ego sickness?’ He seems barely able to contain his thoughts.

It’s makes for an uneasy listen – this is a jarring record, its charms only revealing themselves after a few listens, the light shining through the murky gloom of the album’s dense, dark tones.

And while it’s the cathartic prog pop of those tracks mentioned that stand out, it’s the 13-minute closer ‘Authentic Pyrrhic Remission’ which astounds – and captures the essence of the album. A straightforward funk opening gives way to 10 minutes of discordant fire alarm noise, until the debris clears and haunted pianos emerge as he sings “Til this afternoon I was an exile, but now that word is obsolete / There are no nations, no concept of ego / Our illumination is complete.”

It’s a microcosm of what an oddly engaging and experimental album this is - one which sees Barnes creating the best experimental discordant noise pop he’s worked on since ‘Hissing Fauna’. And that’s high praise indeed.

Tags: Of Montreal, Reviews, Album Reviews

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